The IX season of IPL is in progress. The cricket crazy nation is glued to the idiot box from 4 pm and 8 pm. The much maligned Lalit Modi, in exile, who conceived this brilliant idea, has made IPL such a resounding entertainment and money spinner. Look at the tonnes of monies poured and the enormous talent pool created!
The success of IPL, understandably, arouses both admiration and jealousy. Also corruption, shenanigans and malpractices that resulted in banning two top teams – Rajasthan Royals which won the first IPL championship and the highly popular Chennai Super Kings under M S Dhoni that assembled such rich pool of talent and was the leading light in all IPL seasons!
Even while Chennai lost its popular brand, the CSK, one wonders should the state also lose the opportunity to get the metro as a venue for holding the IPL matches. Chennai has a very large following of knowledgeable cricket fans. For over six decades it has been the venue for national and international matches drawing huge crowds. The M A Chidambaram stadium at Chepauk and earlier, the Nehru Stadium owned by the Corporation of Chennai, used to have test matches and other contests to overflowing spectators.
An indifferent state government and intense rivalry among the business tycoons that control cricket administration in the state have spoiled the chances for Chennai as a venue. For decades M A Chidambaram and his son A C Muthiah dominated the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA). Later N Srinivasan gained control of TNCA and subsequently headed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Muthiah has been close to the AIADMK Supremo Jayalalithaa and N Srinivasan to DMK’s Murasoli Maran. Muthiah could not reconcile to losing control over TNCA which remained his family’s fiefdom for decades and he fought several court cases to dethrone Srinivasan.
The state political leadership seems to have joined the fray by putting numerous hurdles: like opposing the inclusion of players from Sri Lanka. The most serious one relates to the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) objecting to the construction of three of the 11 stands not conforming to norms. This issue has been kept pending for several years. Matches were held with the three stands empty which meant a sizeable loss of revenue and hike in ticket prices for other stands.
While it is a common sight for chief ministers of other states and political leaders at the Centre taking keen interest by their presence and encouragement, Tamil Nadu has been unique: under the Dravidian rule its leaders have been known for their initial non-involvement and present outright hostility to this popular game. Perhaps they think we are best suited to play gilli and goli.
In this, unfortunately, two issues are totally overlooked: ignoring the interests of large number of cricket enthusiasts and the considerable revenue lost by the government which doesn’t anyway has a flattering state of finances. The strangest of all these is the indifference of the citizenry not bothering to raise its voice against this rank neglect of a highly popular sport.
With its comfortable power position and record rains, Chennai metro is well-placed to host the IPL matches. With several matches scheduled for Maharashtra getting shifted out, Chennai should have grabbed the opportunity. With such uncertainty and losses incurred in shifting the venues, IPL/BCCI is bound to look at opportunities for holding the matches outside – as it did in the Gulf and South Africa once earlier.